Saja took a breath to quell her panic. The thief—no assassin—was trying to negotiate with her, she realized. “Why would the Blessed One want to help my father?” she asked. “Why would you want to help me speak with Tarim?”
“Ah, now it makes sense,” said Khouri, rubbing at his jaw. “I can see a vision without need of my scrying bowl. The Blessed One moves against the Horned Man, to take control of protection for the Tanner’s Guild. It is well known to certain ears.” He turned to Saja. “Your father will be found with one or the other.”
“He is with the minions of the Horned Man,” said Lucendes. “For the debts he owes them, they will make him suffer the wrath of their god.”
Anger flared within Saja, washing away her fear. Her father had brought her trouble. Again. She stared at Lucendes, seeing a coiled snake. He’d rescued her from the tanners because he needed her. He’d wanted to use her all along, just as they had.
“You would allow me to see Tarim,” she said, “but only if you can also use him as a weapon in your fight. That is why you concern yourself with the supposed rescue of my father.”
“He needs you,” Khouri agreed. “An augurwraith is a terrible creature—a warrior of the shadows forged from the same mystical powers that birth clairvoyance and precognition, but blended with the strongest of death magic. It is not surprising the Kitame use them as personal bodyguards. Not quite human anymore, they are not quite dead.
“An augur’s wraith, yes, an omen of death. Trying to summon one not bound to you is beyond dangerous. It is something only a master augur would dare attempt. You might as well challenge the will of the Sultan!”
“Strong emotions can sway them to their old life,” said Lucendes. “It has been done before.” Khouri sighed and nodded, conceding the point, though he continued to mutter under his breath.
“And if I refuse?” asked Saja.
Lucendes turned to her, an almost apologetic look upon his face. “Then you will not see your father, nor your Tarim, again.”
Damn them all, thought Saja. Her hands knotted into fists at her waist. Spite boiled within her, and she wished for nothing more than to storm away from Lucendes and deny him his nefarious designs. But where would she storm to? The question had plagued her for days, yet she had no better answer for it.
She couldn’t meet the assassin’s eyes, so stared for a time at the intricate rugs splayed across the floor. Her mind raced, searching for better options but finding none. Finally, she nodded.
“I suppose I will not be able to refuse, either?” asked Khouri.
Lucendes picked up his dagger. “No,” he said, without bothering to veil the threat.
…to be continued
Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.
© Craig Comer